Should prisons be responsible for treating opioid addictions? | The Tylt
Should prisons be responsible for treating opioid addictions?
Advocates say inmates should be given medication for treatment because it's the most effective way to make sure they don't end up back in jail. If people are being sentenced to prison because of an addiction or the crimes they committed to support it, the best way to keep people out of prison is to treat their addiction. It's pretty straightforward.
The opioid epidemic is getting worse. More people are dying of overdoses. More people are landing in jail from the crimes they commit to feed their habit. New Haven Jail Warden Jose A. Felciano Jr. was initially skeptical of treating his inmates with methadone but quickly warmed up to the program once he saw its effects.
Initially, Mr. Feliciano opposed the disruption that methadone handouts would surely cause. “But the more I talked to Dr. Maurer, the better I understood that it is an opportunity to let them live a clean life,” he said. “These individuals at some point in time are going to leave these walls. When people run out of drugs, they’re going to start stealing, committing crime.”
If people truly want to stop the opioid epidemic and help people reform their lives, giving prisoners the option to treat their addiction is a good start.
Hardliners argue prisons are not there for medical treatment. They're there to reform prisoners and keep dangerous people outside of society. Prisons are underfunded and overcrowded as it is.
Hardliners see treatments like methadone as a crutch for addicts. People need to make the choice to stop using drugs and stay clean.
“The best way to not get addicted to opioids is to never use them,” said James M. Cummings, sheriff of Barnstable County in Massachusetts, who opposes methadone in jails despite a sharp rise in addiction and overdoses there.
Also, drugs used to treat opioid addiction have significant value as contraband. These drugs can be used to get high—leading many prison officials to be wary of introducing something that's unlikely to have immediate benefits while having clear and immediate drawbacks.
Karen Martucci, a spokeswoman for the Department of Correction, said the state had a responsibility to maintain order and enforce rules. “It’s also important to recognize that methadone has a contraband value in a correctional environment,” she said.